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RE: Table columns and screen readers

From: Mike Scott <mscott@msfw.com>
Date: Thu, 1 Feb 2001 15:05:30 -0600
To: "Rebecca Cox" <rebecca@cwa.co.nz>, "wai-ig list" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <OCEOKNCFHKCKLBNPDANBIENHCAAA.mscott@msfw.com>
The leading screen readers (JAWS 3.7, Window-Eyes 4.0, etc) and speech
enabled browsers (IBM Home Page Reader 3.0) do a very good job of reading
tables in their logical order (cell-by-cell). As you might guess, their
older versions (I'd guess more than a year and a half old...) do not. So it
comes down to the difficult question of when we can "write off" the older
technologies. The vast majority of screen reader-users I have worked with
acutally use fairly current technology ( -- but most of my work has been in
workplace settings, where the screen reader is likely purchased by the
employer or state vocational rehab agency).

Either way, it is becoming an increasingly difficult battle to try to
convince web authors not to use tables for accessibility reasons, especially
when the discussion includes demonstration of a modern screen reader.
Without better support from the browsers, CSS Positioning just doesn't seem
to be a practical alternative. The note on checkpoint 5.3 says "once user
agents support style sheet positioning, tables should not be used for
layout" -- it sure seems that today's screen readers do a better job dealing
with tables (for layout) than today's browsers do with style sheet
positioning.

I would be interested to hear if anyone has come to any different
conclusions on this issue.

Mike


-----Original Message-----
From: w3c-wai-ig-request@w3.org [mailto:w3c-wai-ig-request@w3.org]On
Behalf Of Rebecca Cox
Sent: Wednesday, January 31, 2001 5:27 PM
To: wai-ig list
Subject: Table columns and screen readers

I know that we are not "meant" to lay out pages with text in 2 or
more table cells side by side.

But, how many people really really stick to this ?

I would have thought that most screen readers would be able to read
the first cell's contents, then the next cell etc etc -- rather than
reading right across the page and turning it all to mush.

Rebecca
Received on Thursday, 1 February 2001 16:07:30 GMT

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